Newport County AFC have knocked a top-flight side out of the Emirates FA Cup for the first time in 55 years after a herculean effort saw them to a 2-1 victory over Leicester City.
A total of 74 places separated the two sides before kick-off but County weren’t buying into that statistic and Jamille Matt headed in off the post after 10 minutes.
Rachid Ghezzal’s thunderbolt looked to have salvaged Leicester a draw with seven minutes remaining, but County found something from within to carve out one more opportunity and Padraig Amond coolly dispatched a penalty to send Rodney Parade into rapture.
The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round draw on Monday night awaits for County!
In the most enterprising and entertaining first-half observed at Rodney Parade this season, the game composed two sides solely focused on creating chances and scoring goals.
Antoine Semenyo was absolutely unplayable in those inaugural 45 minutes, causing all manner of problems to Danny Simpson and away captain Wes Morgan, but it would be unfair just to pinpoint the attacker as every player for County put in a monumental shift.
Leicester were the side to come out of the traps with the greatest intent to start the contest and not for the first time, County had to rely on Joe Day to keep them in the contest.
Within four minutes, some lovely combination work between Mark Albrighton and Shinji Okazaki set Rachid Ghezzal in on goal but Day tipped the effort over the crossbar.
Day was at it again shortly after to deny the quick thinking of Okazaki, whilst Ghezzal had adapted to the conditions extremely well and his surging run forced a third save from the Exiles goalkeeper inside the opening eight minutes.
County were showing no signs of fear or intimidation despite facing the onslaught from their Premier League counterparts – and the Exiles took the lead in the 10th minute with their first attack of the match.
It cannot be underestimated just how good Robbie Willmott’s crosses are and have been all season - they were the sole route to goal for the Exiles in midweek against Stevenage - and this particular one into the area allowed Jamille Matt to rise above Morgan and crash a header in off the far post.
The goal did seem to affect Leicester and their momentum as County built themselves a period of sustained pressure – and they were unlucky not to be two in-front as Danny Ward had to pull off a stunning save from a Matty Dolan free-kick.
That chance invariably acted as a warning sign to Leicester that County would look for more rather than sitting back and the away side again started to create chances aplenty.
Albrighton’s corner-kick caused confusion inside the penalty area, Jonny Evans rose from a host of bodies to head back across goal, but Okazaki couldn’t connect with a free header at the far post.
Ghezzal couldn’t replicate Dolan’s attempt as his free-kick couldn’t remain on target after 23 minutes, whilst a mislaid pass from Tyler Forbes set Albrighton in towards the area but again a monumental defensive effort kept the Foxes defender out.
County weren’t going away, however, and they again highlighted why assistant manager Wayne Hatswell works tirelessly on set-pieces for and against the Exiles.
This one almost produced a goal as well with the delivery going short to Amond, he fed it back beautifully to Dolan whose shot was well denied by Ward with a trailing leg following a deflection.
Leicester were always showcasing their Premier League quality with some absolutely sublime passing and they came closest to an equaliser before half-time on 40 minutes.
Academy graduate Hamza Choudhury played a ball over Forbes for Christian Fuchs to chase, he played it low and hard across the area for Okazaki, but with the goal seemingly left open, Demetriou tracked back superbly to block and keep County ahead at the break.
On came the big hitters for Leicester following the half-time break, James Maddison on immediately then Demarai Gray just after the hour mark.
But it was Albrighton that was having the greatest impetus from a Leicester perspective and an audacious effort from the defender smacked the crossbar after 54 minutes.
Down the other end, Amond was inches away from connecting perfectly to an overhead kick after more positive attacking play from the Exiles.
Kelechi Iheanacho wasted his first sighting at goal following a miscommunication from Demetriou and Day when slipping and hooking a shot wide, whilst Albrighton wasn't that far away with another curling attempt from distance.
You could sense the slight nervous energy exuding around Rodney Parade and just like Tottenham Hotspur did last season, the visitors found their equaliser on 83 minutes.
It was so unlucky on Joe Day who had initially made an unbelievable save to deny Maddison after an incredible lay-off from Gray, but the clearance wasn’t strong enough and Ghezzal smashed in from outside the area.
One thing you can never fault with County this season – regardless of result or scoreline – is that they never give up and they somehow found a way to retake the lead after 85 minutes.
Semenyo was again mesmerising, his run and pass found debutant Vashon Neufville, the cross came in but Albrighton shielded his face with both hands and referee Graham Kavanagh had no choice but to award the penalty.
Amond sent Ward the wrong way to be County’s hero in the Emirates FA Cup once again because after a herculean defensive effort throughout the four minutes additional time, the final whistle blew, and Rodney Parade lifted off into rapture.
Newport County AFC (4-4-2): Day, Neufville, Franks (C), Demetriou, Forbes (Pipe 67’), Semenyo, Dolan (O’Brien 88’), Bennett, Willmott, Amond, Matt (Bakinson 77’)
Subs not used: Townsend, Marsh-Brown, Sheehan, Foulston
Leicester City (4-2-3-1): Ward, Fuchs, Morgan (C), Evans, Simpson (Gray 59’), Albrighton, James (King 72’), Choudhury, Ghezzal, Okazaki (Maddison 45’), Iheanacho
Subs not used: Jakupovic, Soyuncu, Perera, Mendy
Referee: Christopher Kavanagh
Attendance: 6,705 (1022 AWAY)
Next up for County: Crewe Alexandra (12th January 2019) AWAY